There are many ways to describe Yasser Arafat, but whether one tends to call him a “politician,” “statesman” or “terrorist,” any fair estimation of Arafat would have to call him an “Egyptian intellectual.”
Arafat studied in Egypt (some say he was born in Egypt), and to this day his Arabic is inflected with Egyptian intonation and phrases. More importantly, during his formative years-the 1950’s and early 1960’s-he watched admiringly as Egyptian President Gamal Abdul-Nasser projected power across the Middle East (from Morocco to Iran) through powerful propaganda broadcasts on broadband radio.
Today, Arafat is using his broadcast media as he builds his own state of Palestine in his own image.
When Israel signed Israeli-Palestinian “Declaration of Principles” in September 1993 (as well as later sub-treaties under the “Oslo Accords”), it agreed to turn over radio and television frequencies to Arafat’s control as part of three processes: Peace, state-building and mutual cooperation.
In the seven years since, Arafat has NOT used his broadcast outlets in the peace process or in the process of building mutual cooperation. Indeed, the term “cooperation” or “ta’awun” in Arabic is NEVER USED IN THE CONTEXT OF ISRAEL.
However, Arafat unstintingly employs the broadcast media in the state-building process, largely to preserve his own leadership but also to advance Palestinian goals, particularly in the current Palestinian-Israeli war that Palestinians have called by two names: the Al-Aqsa Intifada or the Independence Intifada.
Arafat and his top ministers make no attempt to hide from their own people that the “Intifada” is really a war with strategic goals, and what are their strategic goals?
- Removal of all settlements, all soldiers and all things Israeli
- Establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital
- “Return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes in 1948”
“We salute you, O fighters for Jerusalem with zeal and steadfastness, spilling your pure blood in your blessed struggle for victory and Arabness….It is now three weeks into our blessed Intifada against the failed attempts of the Enemy….Today we as Palestinians to remain coiled for use by our struggle and our Leadership and our Palestinian National Authority which has defended and which will to defend the freedom of our land and the freedom of mankind…to mold the blood of our martyrs and our wounded into national unity…to follow the leadership of our leader, the brother, Abu Amar (nickname for Yasser Arafat) on the path to sacred Jerusalem.” (From “Mishwar al-Sabah” [The Morning Dialogue], 8:30 am, Friday, Oct27
Another theme is that even though the Palestinians instigated the Intifada (and they admit it) Israel is the aggressor. Therefore, any military measures Israel takes are by definition aggression, and any military actions taken against Israel CANNOT be terrorism. That is why anyone who dies fighting Israel-even if he blows up a bomb in Netanya (which was NOT conquered in 1967)-is called a “martyr” or “shahid” in Arabic.
For the last three months, Palestinian radio and television broadcasts open with salutes to the “exalted martyrs” of that day’s fighting who are called “stars of the Intifada.”
Another favorite theme on the Palestinian broadcast media is that Israeli claims to Jerusalem are a forgery.
“There never was Heikal Suleiman (Solomon’s Temple) in Jerusalem.(From broadcasts of November 13-14). And the Palestinians and the Canaanites were both in Jerusalem many years before the Jews.”
Arafat’s media strategy is an integral-if not THE central-element in his war-making strategy, according to senior Palestinian officials such as cabinet secretary Ahmad Abdul-Rahman and PBC broadcast chief Radwan Abu-Ayyash.
“We have to use all means-from broadcasting to newspapers to foreign correspondents to the internet-to use all these means to defeat Israel.” (Interview with Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, 7:30 am, November 12)
Another ironic insight into Arafat’s strategic view is that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have contempt for the Israeli peace movement.
That is why Yasser Arafat in his address to the Islamic Summit in October frequently used the term “Jihad” or holy war while explicitly making fun of “Peace Now” when he said “There will be no peace now and no peace that sanctifies Israeli occupation.”
Arafat and his top ministers might easily come out of the pages of George Orwell’s “1984”: “peace” becomes “war.” The rocks, gasoline bombs, suicide bombers, Palestinian policemen-turned-snipers are all part of what the Palestinian broadcast media call “al-intifada al-silmiyya”-the “peaceful intifada.” Or as General Tawfiq Tirawi, the head Paelstinian military intelligence, said in a New Year’s Interview: “Dialogue can be by words or by bullets and fire.”
Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen)he secretary of the PLO Executive was quoted at 2:10pm on September 25 saying, “The peaceful intifada of the Palestinian people will continue until the Palestinian people have secured their rights completely.”
One of these “rights” is “hawq al-‘awda”: the right of return-meaning the return to pre-1967 Israel of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Many intellectuals in Israel fooled themselves into thinking that Arafat had retreated from this demand and that he “didn’t really mean it” when he kept talking about this issue on the Palestinian media.
If more Israeli and Western “intellectuals” paid attention to what the “Egyptian intellectual,” Yasser Arafat, broadcasts to his people, they would have been less surprised by his recent actions. They would also have a better idea of what Arafat means when he uses the word “peace.”